The issue of property taxes in Maine has constantly been a subject of referendum. One of the issues not adequately discussed is that property tax in Maine is very much dependent upon the community in which you live.

If you are a resident of Augusta or Hallowell, you pay a high property tax, close to 30 mills per thousand. If you are a resident of a rural area with lots of ocean frontage, such as Southport, you pay a very low property tax.

Cities have the burden of unemployment, the homeless, the mentally ill and nonprofits. Rural areas have significantly fewer services and do not have to have any of the social burdens found in the cities. The disparity between rural and urban is astronomical. However, Maine people are not about to change it, and it is all part of the cost of being able to breathe Maine air.

I felt sorry for some of the people who live in Maine cities until I visited my friend Stephanie in West Orange, N.J. She said they were going to vote out Gov. Jon Corzine (which, in fact, they did) because of what happened to the property taxes.

I said, “Oh, sure,” and listened to her tale until she provided me with her tax bill.

Her property has an assessed value of $121,100 but is probably worth at least $200,000. Everyone in West Orange has an assessed value that’s approximately 60 percent of the fair market value.

The fact that assessments are 60 percent of the fair market value, if done evenly,  should have no impact on the actual property tax. The tax base determines how much the property tax will be and if everyone is based at 25 percent of their assessed value or 80 percent of their assessed value, the taxes should relatively remain the same, excluding any homestead exemptions.

According to the county government where Stephanie resides, Stephanie receives a county subsidy of $2,662.99, which is used to reduce her property taxes. It is not need-based. The subsidy sounds good and you would think it would have a significant impact on her property taxes, but it doesn’t.

Stephanie’s property tax for the year ending Dec. 31, 2009, after deducting the subsidy, was $15,194.42. Nowhere in Maine do we have property taxes like they do in New Jersey.

So, my astute readers may say, “Yeah, but look at the Maine income tax.”

I’ve got news for you. New Jersey has an income tax, a sales tax and even a breathing tax.

After learning about New Jersey’s property tax, you realize we do not have it so bad in Maine. Remember, where Stephanie lives in West Orange is only 10 to 15 miles from Secaucus, which is where the pig farms were, and you can always recognize it by the smell.

We get free Maine air and a property tax on $125,000 that is well under $5,000.

Stephanie has in excess of $15,000 in property tax and has to put up with the traffic of New Jersey, the odor of refineries and people who speak with a combination of a New York and a Philadelphia accent.

Maine property tax isn’t all that bad after all.

Sumner Lipman has practiced law as a trial lawyer for more than 40 years and is a member of the Augusta law firm Lipman, Katz & McKee.